On Friday, January 31, 2014, the U.S. State Department released its final Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement for the Keystone XL pipeline. As we wait now for President Obama to decide whether or not to approve the northern leg of the pipeline, oil is already flowing in the southern leg that cuts through East Texas.
We've raised voices of religious concern about construction of the Keystone XL for several years. Read about that here, here, and here. Now, one church on the front lines of the question—Austin Heights Baptist Church in Nacogdoches, Texas—is sending a plea to people of faith across the country to stand with them in concern about climate change and in opposition to this pipeline. Here is their urgent message:
"Most religions of the world insist that one of humanity's responsibilities is to be the steward or caretaker of the earth that was created to nourish us all. With that moral imperative in mind, our East Texas church wishes to encourage faith communities throughout our land to join us in being witnesses that this good earth is the Lord's and is not to be abused, exploited nor destroyed. We hope you’ll join us, too, in making an unmistakable plea to work for an earth capable of sustaining future generations.
For our family of faith, Austin Heights Baptist Church, the issue is immediate and personal. The Keystone XL pipeline lies within a mile of some of our members' homes, and a county school near us has the pipeline on the boundary of the school property, at some points less that 800 feet from the children.
President Obama will soon be making a decision regarding the northern leg of the Keystone XL pipeline, and its delivery of toxic tar sands to Texas for refining—a process guaranteed to hasten further environmental destruction. One leak in the pipe, like in Mayflower, Arkansas or Marshall, Michigan (Kalamazoo River), can change a community forever. The toxic pollutants discharged into the air in the Houston/Beaumont area, too, will alter countless lives.
We hope and pray that congregations of all faiths will join with us February 14-16, 2014 during the national Interfaith Power and Light Preach-In on Climate Change to make a public statement of this critical need. How your faith community might take this position is up to you—a prayer vigil, march, a demonstration, sermon, an earth-care discussion or other statement or witness.
After the Preach-In on Climate Change has come and gone, there will still be much work to do. Please join us. Time is of the essence.
If your congregation is interested in joining with us to make our united voices heard, please let us know your plans so that we might pray for one another.
Joe Richardson, Deacon
Kyle Childress, Pastor
Austin Heights Baptist Church